The Michigan women’s basketball team is still alive.
After defeating Cleveland State in the first round of the WNIT, Michigan will travel to Toledo to take on the Rockets on Monday night in the second round of the tournament.
The Wolverines (8-10 Big Ten, 17-14 overall) are coming off a convincing 71-50 win over the Vikings on Wednesday night in which Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico used an unorthodox method to pick her starting lineup.
She used a points-based system to reward players for their work during the week leading up to the game.
At the end of the week, freshman forward Emoni Jackson held the No. 5 spot in the points standings, earning her first start of her collegiate career.
And Barnes Arico’s unorthodox method paid off, as Jackson totaled eight points and four rebounds in 14 minutes of action.
“She’s just got a little bounce on her,” Barnes Arico said. “She was able to rebound the basketball extremely well and just find a way to finish plays around the basket. She gave us a great lift, and I was really happy for her.”
Michigan’s defense shut down Cleveland State, which shot a paltry 25.9 percent in the first half, scoring just 20 points.
Senior forward Cyesha Goree returned to her double-digit scoring form, finishing with 18 points after scoring just a combined seven points in her last two games.
Even with her successful experiment, Barnes Arico acknowledged that her regular starters — senior guard Shannon Smith, sophomore guard Siera Thompson and freshman guard Katelynn Flaherty — would have big parts in the Wolverines’ next game.
But Barnes Arico was happy with her squad’s depth.
“Siera and Shannon have proved themselves all year long,” Barnes Arico said. “We’ll have to sit down and we’ll evaluate the next couple days and kind of see what happens, but it’s nice to have that depth and to be able to have to make those decisions, which are great decisions as a coach to have to make.”
For Toledo (11-9 Mid-American Conference, 19-13), guard Inma Zanoguera leads the Rockets in scoring with 15.4 points per game. She also leads the team in boards, averaging 6.7 rebounds.
Five years ago, the two opponents found themselves in the exact same position.
Michigan and Toledo faced off in the second round of the WNIT in 2010, when the Wolverines used a 21-2 run out of the halftime break to win 72-57 and advance to the round of 16.
That Michigan team went on to semifinals before bowing out to Miami.
The Wolverines and the Rockets have faced five of the same opponents this season in Purdue, Detroit, Eastern Michigan, Cleveland State and Western Michigan. Michigan is a combined 5-0 against the five squads, while Toledo is 3-5.
The winner of the game will face Missouri in the round of 16 after the Tigers defeated Kansas State, 67-48, on Sunday.
But to get to Missouri, Michigan will have to tame a rowdy Toledo crowd — average attendance at Rockets games is over 3,500. Winning won’t be easy, considering the Wolverines are just 4-10 away from home.
But if Michigan wants its postseason to continue, it’s going to have do just that.